March Sundries

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I just finished listening to the first episode of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere on BBC’s iplayer and it is fantastic. I’m a little behind. There are 3 episodes available to stream. The first episode came out Monday and there will be a new episode daily through Friday. I believe they’ll be available to stream online through March 31st, but check it out for yourself. The cast is amazing and I love listening to this kind of dramatization.

This afternoon I finished reading Swan Song by Robert McCammon. It was a sprawling epic of a post-apocalyptic book with a lot of interesting supernatural elements and commentary on humanity. Probably not the best thing to be reading when you’re a little stressed already as it tended to bleed into my thought processes in unexpected ways.

The other day I looked out the window at the blue sky and I found myself sort of subconsciously shocked. Then I realized I had somehow blended reality with the fiction I was reading and of course there’s blue sky. This is sunny California in early Spring, not post-apocalyptic nuclear winter in Missouri. I’ve also had weird impulses to horde everyday items and hide them in defense against looters and vandals. Not something I actually need to worry about in my everyday life. It was weird things, too, like firewood and pens. I shake my head at myself when I realize where my thoughts have strayed. It’s funny how fiction can have such an impact. Fictional characters can often be more real to me than actual people I meet. I think it must be the extra glimpse into their psyche, knowing how they think and what motivates their actions. We are able to get closer to them than any casual acquaintance we meet, sometimes even closer than some friendships allow.

Now I face the task of determining what to read next. Too many options!

I’ve been reading Rilke’s poetry off and on between chapters of Swan Song and I continue to be amazed by the power of his wordplay. Something about his poetry is just nailing me where I live right now. I feel like my chest has been cracked open and my beating heart exposed to the air. He is astounding.

I wanted to post some of his poetry a few weeks ago, highlighting differences in a couple different translations, but today I just want to catch up on mentioning a few things. It’s hard for me to keep posting at times. I don’t always know what it is that I want to say.

I’m not really working on anything interesting right now. I’ve been a little burned out and trying to rest up and realign myself. I’ve let a lot of personal things slack and now I have to catch up. I have a couple of knit projects I’m still working on and a few more that I need to start. I’ve been writing a little more and tinkering with some ideas, and I’ve got some letters to finish. Other than that it’s all work, work, begrudgingly go to sleep, work.

My goal is to keep interested. I want to maintain the feeling that there is possibility and potential for great things in the world. If I can keep myself hungry, then I will continue to find new and interesting things to feast upon. I think that’s a worthy start.

B

She Must Write…Poems

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A few nights ago, near to midnight, I wrote a poem and felt again how strange it was to do so. I haven’t written much poetry lately, though I wish that wasn’t the case. I used to write it all the time, lines popping into my head, demanding to be written, or a phrase turning over and slowly pulling images out of me. It seems like they are rare wonders now.
I thought as life progressed that I would be writing them more and more often, as life experience increased and I grew into whatever it was I was supposed to become. But life just seemed to get busy, rather than being the fullness or fruition that I had in mind as a child.
It’s strange, sometimes, the paths that lead us to who we become.

Writing poetry, for me, is a quiet craft. It feels like an immersion into my innermost self, where I must learn to discern the echoes of my emotions and thoughts and distill them into their purest essence. This sounds rather grand, and I do not claim that my poems always reach their highest potential. What is important is that I write them, when I can, and how I can. They deserve their lives, however small, however brief.

Here is the poem I wrote that night:

A poem moves along the curve of her spine,
Yawning and bowing in soft undulations,
Crisp along the ridge.
She carries a masterwork in her bones,
Contained in the latticework of her frame.
Her skin stretches to hold in the meaning;
Her eyes filled with sad knowledges,
Organs fill to bursting with passions,
And veins flow hot with more than blood.
Can she stop the brain from burning?
Sweet, searing pain of being
consumed.

-2.14.13 RB

~

In the course of my very scattered reading, I have recently discovered Rilke. I had heard of him vaguely before, but never read, to my knowledge, any of his poetry. What little I have read now, I have found beautiful. I’ll probably write more about certain pieces later.

In my small amount of reading thus far, I read one of his Letters to a Young Poet and found a few lines I wanted to copy here. They seem to carry along the pattern of my thoughts.

Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity.  …A piece of art is good if it is born of necessity. …Go within and scale the depths of your being from which your very life springs forth. At its source you will find the answer to the question, whether you must write. Accept it, however it sounds to you, without analyzing. Perhaps it will become apparent to you that you are indeed called to be a writer. Then accept that fate; bear its burden, and its grandeur, without asking for the reward…
For the creative artist must be a world of his own…

~Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
Full text can be found here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23355

I hope that I will write more poems and continue to find inspiration in the world around me, the words of poets and the work of artists long gone, and also somewhere deep within myself. Because, at the end of it all… I must write.

B

The Antidote

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We all fear death and question our place in the universe. The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.

~Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein in “Midnight in Paris”, a Woody Allen film.

What makes someone an artist? Intent? Talent? By what is that talent measured and delineated? Who declares it to be valid? Is it drive that makes an artist? Work? Is it a self-proclamation? Is it only established when money has passed hands?

Is it the enduring nature of the person’s work; its ability to surpass time and carry relevance forward? Its value in the light of posterity? Its ability to reach people, to have an impact? Is it the distillation of humanity in its essence?

Whether it is the beautiful that brings to our hearts the love of truth and justice, or whether it is truth that teaches us how to find the beautiful in nature and how to love it, in either case art does a noble work. It drags out the soul from its everyday shell, and brings it under the spell of its own mysterious and wonderful power, so that a memory of this experience stays with the people, sustains them in their daily labors, and refines their minds.

~Helena Modjeska, “Women and the Stage,” The World’s Congress of Representative Women

Art causes us to step outside of our selves; it causes us to transcend our own borders and boundaries, the limitations of our own perspective, but it also causes us to see deeper into our selves.

Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows to people these secrets which are common to all.

~Leo Tostoy, an excerpt from his Diary

I don’t know at what point a person can be called an artist, but I know that one can always strive to make art, in whatever form. I think it’s that straining for something beyond one’s self that’s important. Robert Browning said “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” No one can know what they are capable of until they have pursued something, not knowing whether it was impossible or merely difficult.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep myself encouraged, to keep pursuing the dream or the inspiration that started me on a given trajectory. I think artists do what they do because they must. There is something in them that compels them to work, to create, to re-imagine life and interpret their experiences and thoughts, channeling them into tangible objects, or words on a page, or images that harness a deeper meaning.

For me, a lot of that drive to create is channeled into writing. I love words and stories and language. Books are my safe haven, my adventure, my great source of joy. I can’t imagine what would be better than having a book filled with my thoughts published and read. Of course, that’s also daunting, intimidating and incredibly scary.

I try to keep myself writing any way that I can. Sometimes I am driven to write, but there are times when I have to find ways of drawing myself out. I keep journals, more like commonplace books, filled with thoughts, ideas, records of events, mementos, poems, quotes, and anything that my magpie brain finds shiny and worth holding on to. This last year I started a line-a-day 5-year journal that I hope will cause me to faithfully write something every day. I carry small notebooks in my purse. I use a note-taking app on my smartphone. I stuff scribbled-upon scraps of paper in my pockets. I use Google docs. Whatever I can find that I think might help or inspire, I utilize.

I write letters, as often as I can. I love mail and I love to send a little bit of myself to people I care about. There’s something intimate and personal about handwritten correspondence. I think I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but I’m still trying to improve. There’s a lot of anticipation with letters. It’s not instant, like so many other kinds of communication available, but it feels more tangible.

I’m kind of old-school: I prefer pen and paper and writing longhand to get my thoughts flowing, to keep up with the rhythms and shifts of mood. One of my friends suggested using brightly colored ink pens and switching colors whenever my writing started to lose momentum. It works. I think everyone comes up with tricks and techniques that aid in keeping them going.

I think it’s very important to keep searching out inspiration. I love this quote:

Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

You never know what will inspire you. Keep your eyes (and ears) open.

Here’s a few thoughts about writing that I try to remember. Strive to take whatever it is you have and make the very best of it, not just for yourself, but to try and impart something to the world. Keep writing. Sandra Cisneros has a line in one of her poems that reads “She must write poems.” I understand that. I’m not properly myself unless I’m writing- something, anything. Work toward a breakthrough. Keep at it. Enjoy the process. Don’t let plausible outcomes overshadow what you are doing today. Work toward a goal, even if it’s only a paragraph, a sentence, a line. Use what you have. Find people who encourage you and build you up. Don’t discount them. Believe in yourself. Write it out, write it down, let it happen. Just keep writing.

That’s what my good friends tell me, and that’s what I try to remember.

Whatever Sparks My Neural Pathways

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I’ve been listening a lot to The Heavy’s The Glorious Dead album. I’m obsessed with the song Be Mine. I love it.

Take all my money
Take all my time
Take all the stars that hang above me
Be mine!

Take all my tears
Covet my eyes
Take what you need
To make you love me
Be mine!

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/heavy/bemine.html

I’m actually not usually the person who will listen to a given song repeatedly. It’s usually like I absorb the music and then I’m good for a while, even if I really liked it, I don’t need to listen to it all the time. This one? It haunted me. I sing it to myself unexpectedly and often. I think about it. I connect it to what I’m reading, or things my friends talk about. I can’t get enough of it.

The Glorious Dead album

After a while I branched out and came to appreciate and then love the entire album. Especially tracks like Same Ol’ and Can’t Play Dead. But yeah, really, the whole thing.

See, I have this weird thing about music. Well, I don’t know if it’s weird or not, but I somehow don’t think its something that a lot of other people commonly find happening. Okay, enough caveats. Here’s thing: The first time I hear a new song- one with lyrics- I hyper focus on the lyrics and it’s not until the second or third time that I can just relax and listen or let it be background. I can’t even fully absorb the melody or instruments or anything until I’ve grasped the words. And if the words can hook me first thing? Then I’m sold. But if I can’t stand the lyrics, I probably won’t be able to look past them to enjoy any of the rest of it. Maybe, but it’ll still bother me.

Intelligent, well written lyrics are dead sexy. I’m just sayin’.

Since becoming so sold on this particular album, I’ve started exploring The Heavy’s other albums. I haven’t listened to enough yet to make an opinion on them yet, maybe I’ll have more to say about them in future. But yeah, The Heavy. Such good stuff.

Previous to discovering The Heavy, I was nurturing a profound love of The Black Keys. I actually got into them courtesy of my friend Katie and a mix she made me which I now cannot for the life of me find. (In fact, Katie’s the one that first mentioned The Heavy to me, too.) I LOVE The Black Keys. Utterly and completely. Since receiving that initial mix, I have purchased almost all of their albums and currently listen to several on repeat. I love having music I can feel that connected to.

I can’t recommend just one song. I love them all. But here’s one anyway…

And thinking of these two bands makes me think of The Raconteurs, who I also love, and Grand Ole Party.

Broken Boy Soldier by The Raconteurs

Humanimals by Grand Ole Party

None of this music is new, I’m not bringing any revelations here, I’m recording thoughts. Some day I want to be able to look back and pinpoint certain times in my life and know what I was thinking about and feeling and what I found worth paying attention to. Who can tell where any given interest may lead? And if someone happens to read this and gets interested in music they haven’t heard before, well, that’s a good thing. I love it when people broaden the spectrum of my knowledge and introduce me to new things, so maybe here I can return the favor.

Video

Thinking about Klimt

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This clip is a scene from the film “Dying Young” where a slideshow is shown of the works of Gustav Klimt and Dante Gabriel Rosetti. It’s not the clearest quality, but still beautiful.

This scene reminded me of how much I love Gustav Klimt. I’ve been thinking about his paintings a lot lately. My favorite used to be “The Kiss”, which I think is his most famous piece.
Gustav Klimt's The Kiss (http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/gustav-klimt/the-kiss-1908)

For now, I think my favorite of his paintings is “Adam and Eve”. Adam and Eve (http://www.wmofa.com/artists/Klimt,_Gustav/image/Adam_and_Eve_-_unfinished_1917-1918.jpg.html&img=&tt=)

I love the look on his face. I could stare at him for hours. There is just such a quiet about this painting.

He created so many absolutely beautiful paintings.

I read a children’s book about him at the library the other day, and it described Klimt as being a champion. A soldier fighting for happiness. Battling sickness, greed, and unhappiness in the world with art. About how art, poetry, and music can change the world we live in, for the better. I like that idea. I’d like to believe that it’s possible, and sometimes, looking at art, or reading poetry, or listening to a powerful piece of music, I really do believe it’s true.

The art of communal reading

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http://unwrittenwords.tumblr.com/post/31372958726/felixinclusis-campsis-sunday-lori-pensini

I have a cousin who’s only a few months older than me, and every summer, growing up, I would look forward to her visits. She came up to my town to visit her grandmother, who wasn’t my grandmother. I adored her and we got along really well, but our time together was always limited by her other familial obligations.

The picture linked above reminds me of long summer days we used to spend sprawled out companionably on my parents big bed, reading quietly together. We read to ourselves totally different books, but somehow it was blissfully fun. Every now and again we would share a passage or comment on what we were reading, but it was enough just to be together, reading.

Moments like those will always be crystallized in my memory.

B

End of August Update

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It’s been a long time since I last posted, but I’ve been struggling with finding the right format and place to express my thoughts. I’ve mentioned before that I keep a regular journal; good, old fashioned pen & paper, but I’m always looking for more ways to facilitate the writing habit. I have notebooks scattered all over the place & I carry a small moleskin with me always. I’ve even fallen in love with the note making app downloaded on my Android. (OneNote) I carry a full assortment of pens of various types and mini highlighters, should the need arise. These feel like the tools of my trade, although they are far removed from the way in which I actually earn my modest keep. How about you? Do you feel incomplete with out some means to quickly jot down a thought before it abandons you?
I don’t often feel like I have much to say. I’m one of those people who doesn’t really talk unless there’s something worth saying or some way to add to the conversation. Unfortunately, that means I’m largely silent. I live a very quiet kind of life, but my internal life is almost always teeming.
I have 2 jobs. I work at a public library & at a private, non-profit foster care agency. Both jobs are often busy and loud. You wouldn’t normally associate *loud* with *library*, but believe me, most times it is exactly that. That’s where the whole *public* aspect comes in.
By the time I’m finally off work, I just want to be alone and quiet somewhere restful to detox my brain. Most of my close friends are scattered to the wind at present, which means I’ve become even more of a hermit. And I don’t really mind it. Maybe that’s part of getting older. (I would say “growing up” but I’m not sure I ever plan to do that.)
I’ve had a lot of productive projects to work on this year. I’ve been cataloging my books (over 630 of them) reimagining my living space, and learning to knit (I’ve almost finished my first pair of socks). I need small windows of inspiration and stimulation to keep my sanity in a world that constantly strives to undermine it.
I’m looking forward to finding new uses for this space and finding  more & more ways to be inspired and productive.
May you all find ways to keep your hearts light and your inspiration plentiful. And may we all find ways to fulfill all our purpose.

B.

Just a quick rant

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Student Loans

Is there anything more frustrating than dealing with loan companies online? I just want to make a payment. I just want to talk to a reasonable human being because I seem to have locked myself out of the online account. I just want a logical end result. *eye roll*

Shitty Work Environments

I am tired of working places where favoritism and nepotism abounds. I am tired of seeing people not valued for their work, but for their similarity to those in charge. No one has a decent work ethic any more, and why should they? They certainly don’t get rewarded for it. They certainly can’t take it to the bank and use it to pay off bills or put a roof over their head. It doesn’t buy many groceries.

Lie, cheat, steal, treat people like shit, and you will get ahead. That’s bullshit.

Fear of being real

I’ve been wanting to blog, to post, to write for a long time, but I feel like I have to keep certain aspects of myself hidden. Even though this is my blog, I don’t feel free to just talk here. I feel like I have to come up with “interesting” things to say, and I feel like there’s a pressure to make myself appealing to readership. READERSHIP I DON’T EVEN HAVE! I have such an innane fear of failure that I even fear success. It’s ridiculous.

A lot of things have been coming to a head lately. I’m tired, I’m worn down, I’m about to burn out and I have to keep going, hoping for that next rest period, that next moment of peace, that next hour to myself. I hope no one minds if I just rant for a bit. I want a place to be myself. To think, to SPEAK, to discover things, and introduce things, to explore and investigate, without always having to try and be so damned clever and polite. I don’t want to be afraid of people reading this. I want to WRITE and I want it to be visible.

I don’t tell many people about my blog, because I’m not very proud of it. It still feels intensely experimental and I’m never sure if it’s really working. But I want to start making an effort, you know? *sigh* I’m frustrated with the state of things.

Getting Personal 

I’d like to actually talk a little bit about my real life here, too, not just my somewhat muddled intellectual being. My friends. My family. My challenges and endeavors, and, yes, frustrations.  I hope I can do that. I haven’t yet figured out how to do it, whether I need a separate venue, or topical headings, or a new “page”. I have a lot to figure out, but I’m tired of hiding and being half-hearted about the things I really feel passion for.

This is my life, and it’s passing swiftly. I don’t want it to be an unremarkable journey.

B

Paranormal Reading List

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I’ve been reading a lot of paranormal, sort of post-apocalyptic fiction lately. Usually, I read about four books at a time, all different subject matter and genre types, but lately, there’s at least one paranormal book. I started reading Simon R. Green’s Nightside series this year, and I got really into it.

Nightside #1

His sort of post-apocalyptic, noir, gumshoe hero is this dark, messed up character with scars and flaws and trouble seeing his own merit, but well aware of his ass-kicking abilities and reputation as harbinger of death & mayhem. All this dark packaging and, yes, ultimately the one that saves the day. Love it. So much fun.

Simon R. Green’s books are kind of a cross between Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series and the Black London series by Caitlin Kittredge. Both of which I recommend. I’m only 3 books in to the Nightside series, so far, and I have at least one book to catch up in the Black London series, but I just finished Kadrey’s latest Sandman Slim novel, Aloha From Hell.

Sandman Slim #1

Sandman Slim is a man born with paranormal abilities, namely a natural capacity for magic. Through a course of events, he spends eleven years in Hell, alive, fighting, sustaining massive damage, surviving, becoming an assassin, and returning to the mortal plane to get vengeance, and, you know, save mankind without any kind of thanks. If that paltry description sounds at all interesting, READ IT. Soo good.

Other paranormal books on my reading list for this year are:
John Dies at the End by David Wong
Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
Heartless & Timeless by Gail Carriger, the latest 2 books in the Parasol Protectorate series
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Grimoire by Kim Wilkins
The Night Circus (in progress) by Erin Morgenstern
Bone Gods by Caitlin Kittredge
The Town That Forgot How to Breathe by Kenneth J. Harvey
The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harknesss
Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

I’m sure the list will grow as the months continue, and hopefully I’ll continue to make good headway. If you’re curious about other books I’ve read or have on my reading list, you can check out my goodreads.com list here: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/119908-becky

~B

Moods

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Are you mood driven? I am. Sometimes I feel as though I have to get just the right color palette together, just the right textures, just the right music or else the day will go horribly wrong. If I don’t feel right, the day won’t go right. 

Tonight, I needed familiar films playing, ones I had seen before, so I didn’t have to pay attention if I got involved in a project, and ones that would set the right tone. They both turned out to be literary and had subtle, sort of indie soundtracks. The first was “Stranger Than Fiction”. 

ImageI love this movie more and more every time I see it. I love all the character nuances and the earnestness of the protagonist. I love the idea that he is a walking idea, an embodiment of someone’s imaginings, and that he takes on a life of his own only after realizing that; and that is when he really begins to live and impact the world around him. The film is sweet, intelligent, and ironic. This is one of my favorite scenes:

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I love all the discussion of literary themes, and the ultimate emphasis on the importance of fiction in life. 

The second movie I watched tonight was “Wonder Boys”. 

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Quirky, moody, and academic. I just wanted to haunt some of those places, eavesdropping on literary conversations and intellectual blather. I miss being on a college campus. I have become quite fond of this film. 

I suppose both choices were about different kinds of awakening. Finding out what you really want out of your life, letting go of who you were, and what you thought you understood, and forging a new path. 

If you haven’t seen one or either of these, do so. You may not appreciate them the way I do, but they should be seen.